Hit & Run

It's Expected We're Gone

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John Mueller - who argued against the Iraq War in the pages of Reason - argues in the American Conservative that an Iraq pullout is the best possible solution to the crisis in that country. He tackles the thornier arguments pretty much head-on.

America's exit from Iraq will exhilarate international terrorists because victory over the U.S. will seem even greater to them than victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden's theory that Americans can be defeated, or at least productively inconvenienced, by inflicting comparatively small but continuously draining casualties on them will achieve apparent confirmation.

But that one is already lost: almost any exit from Iraq will have this effect. People like bin Laden believe that America in-vaded Iraq as part of its plan to control the Middle East's oil and dominate the world —a perspective that polls suggest is enormously popular in Muslim countries as well as in such non-Muslim ones as Germany and France. The U.S. does not intend to do that—at least not in the direct sense bin Laden and others allege —nor does it seek to destroy Islam, as many others around the world bitterly assert. Such people will see almost any kind of American withdrawal as a victory for the terrorist insurgents, to whom they will give primary credit for forcing America to leave without accomplishing what they mistakenly take to be its key objectives.

Moreover, jihadists may be inclined to draw a special lesson by comparing the results of 9/11 with those of the Iraq War: it is much more productive to hit the "far enemy" when it comes near than to hit it in its homeland. That is, if their goal is to get the U.S. out of the Middle East, it is better for jihadists to cause it damage in places where its interests are limited rather than in places where its interests are vital. Thus, even if the result of the Iraq War exhilarates some terrorists, it would not necessarily whet their appetites for another 9/11.

Mueller's Reason archive is here; Nick Gillespie interview him on the future of terrorism here.